Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Care Partner Wednesday--Doctor's Visits

Sarah was frustrated. She had placed her mom in a care home a year ago, and one of the reasons was...well...the care. Sarah had a full time job, and couldn't be with her all the time, and she found she worried about her all day long. The transition hadn't been smooth, but now she was settled and doing much better. The staff who cared for her daily needs were kind and Mom loved them. The nurses were great about keeping her up to date with any changes. Her frustration was the doctors.

She met her mom's doctor at the care conference, six weeks after admission. Sarah liked him, and found him easy to talk to and helpful. Trouble was, she hadn't seen him since then. She tried to be there when he came in, but she always missed him. Phone conferences were awkward with work, and she had so many questions. Then there were the specialists. Did every elderly person go to this many specialists? It was a huge effort to take Mom, and sometimes they would ask questions she didn't know the answer to. She didn't spend every minute with Mom any more, and although she wasn't confused, Mom sometimes had trouble answering, too.


“If you find it in your heart to care for someone else, you will have succeeded.”– Maya Angelou

Here are some tips for getting the help you need from doctors and specialists:

1. In a situation like Sarah's, she has two options to talk with the doctor who cares for her mother. She can ask the nurse to tell her when the doctor will be in, and ask to have some time with him to ask her questions. This way, the doctor can review Mom's chart and will schedule time in his day for Sarah. She should have her questions written down and have a note pad to jot answers.

The other option is to schedule a phone interview. This is also done through the nurse, but may be more convenient. Either way, expect to spend about fifteen minutes. if there are other siblings who would also like to be in on the call, a conference call is possible. In the common situation where some of the care partners are out of town, Skype is another possibility. Ask if the home is set up for this.

2. When visiting an outside doctor, or even something as simple as the dentist, take along a list of medications and a card for whatever health/insurance coverage you have. Both of these are vital. Also have a list of questions and a note pad. Make sure to keep track of any follow up appointments.

3. For any appointment outside the building, ask yourself and perhaps the attending physician this question: is it necessary? The toll an outside appointment takes on an elderly person may be more than the outcome is worth. Look at the whole picture.

  • Your mother may want to go back to the dentist she has been seeing for twenty years, but she may not realize how taxing the experience will be. If there is a dentist that visits the home, that may be an option.
  • She broke her foot, and you've made three visits to the fracture clinic. They said it's healing well the last time, she's walking on it and getting physiotherapy. Do you need to go back one more time?
  • The doctor ordered a test that can only be done in hospital on your 92 year old mother. What are you planning on doing with the information the test will provide? If you've already decided to forgo further invasive treatment and keep her comfortable, is this test necessary?
Like many care partner decisions, there are no right or wrong answers. You have to decide what is best for you and your loved one. 

The doctor is an important part of the team who cares for your loved one. What you need to remember are you.

Share with us. What tips have you learned that has helped in dealing with medical professionals?


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